What Does The Word Yoga Mean? Meaning And Definition Of Yoga

Sunil Murthy
Written by
Last update:

What Does the Word Yoga Mean? What is the Meaning of Yoga Word?

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yutsu” which means “union”. It refers to uniting mind with Spirit. It is a physical and spiritual discipline that creates balance in the mental, emotional, and physical body. Yoga's classical definition is the act of union with the Supreme Reality, or the experience of unity between the Self and the Universe.

In India, Yoga is one of the six orthodox schools (darshanas). Yoga and religion are not intertwined. It is not a religion. Yoga is practiced by people from all faiths and spiritual backgrounds.

Definition of Yoga

As tricky as it might be, you shouldn’t run from the yoga definition. Attempting to decipher what it all means is vital to discover if it will fit into your healthy lifestyle. And make sure that yoga is suitable for you is crucial before you begin your yoga journey.

We all know that yoga is considered an ancient practice or philosophy of meditation. Yoga is essentially a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science, which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. It is an art and science of healthy living. But the most significant thing you need to know is that there are several types of yoga. And each contends about what type of yoga is right for you.

The three different styles of yoga are hatha yoga, ashtanga yoga, and vinyasa yoga. You can break down your yoga into even more types as yoga is constantly evolving.

Origin of the Term 'Yoga'

The word 'Yoga' is derived from the Sanskrit word, which means 'union.' It refers to a way of life or spiritual practice, where an individual’s soul experiences union with the universe’s soul.

It is well believed that the earliest mention of the word 'Yoga' is found in Rigveda, while the Bhagavad Gita contains the most significant exposition of the subject. Other Hindu scriptures, including the Mahabharata, Bhagavad Purana, Manusmriti, and the Ramayana, also reference yoga. The Sanskrit word 'Yoga' is also used in Buddhism and Jainism, with very similar meanings to the ones existing in Hinduism.
How the word 'yoga' is used also varies from religion to religion. For instance, in Hinduism, Yoga is generally practiced as a kind of selfless service or Seva.

Union of Consciousnesses

Yoga is a union of consciousnesses. When you do your yoga, there is nothing else in the world. You are not thinking about anything or anybody. The whole universe is filled with you and you only. Like the universe has billions of suns, millions of worlds, and trillions of beings, you will know yourself as the infinite consciousness when you do yoga to unite with God. This yoga refers to that union of consciousness.

Some people say, “What state? I haven’t attained anything. I still have anger, greed, lust, and jealousy as before.” If you practice yoga, you will eliminate these negative qualities when you genuinely unite with consciousness. Remember that yoga is not a technology that is done in a few stages. Yoga is a process, an evolution that everyone can go through. Yoga is natural. It’s an inherent quality of human beings; the body, mind, and soul are of the exact nature. Yoga is the state when these three things are in harmony.

Yoga Philosophy Originated From Vedas

Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word, yuj, which means to yoke, as in a yoked team of oxen. The word Yoga means to yoke and to join together. Ancient Yoga was not a passive form of exercise but a very active way of living one’s life. Yoga means a union of body, mind, and soul with the divine (Supreme Being).

The Yoga philosophy originated from the ancient Vedas (Yoga Sutras of Patanjali). Read the Yoga Sutras, and you will learn that the fundamental principle underlying Yoga is not just physical exercise but a way to peace and freedom. The Sutras suggest that there is a single intelligence running the entire universe. By focusing and concentrating our minds on this intelligent force, we can achieve peace and freedom.
Yoga comes in hundreds of forms. In its original context, it is a perfect system of exercise for the body and the mind. By exercising the body through physical Yoga poses and moving the body through breath control, the body can achieve a state of physical peace and freedom. Let the body be free, and the mind will focus.

The Five Basic Paths of Yoga

  1. Hatha Yoga (the yoga of physical posture) incorporates various exercise, meditation, breathing techniques, and postures.

  2. Karma Yoga (the yoga of selfless service) is about action, without attachment or expectation to reap rewards for personal benefits which will lead to liberation of the soul.

  3. Jnana Yoga (the yoga of self-inquiry) is about self-study, the aim being to find a lasting sense of purpose, peace, and freedom from illusion and suffering, and self-realization.

  4. Bhakti Yoga (the yoga of devotion) is about devotion, surrender, and devotion to a higher power, as well as submission to a teacher.

  5. Raja Yoga also known as Royal path or Classcial Yoga (the yoga of meditation/connection to the universal soul) which includes the eight limbs, is about focusing your mind and attaining a state of clarity, peace, and union with the highest manifestation of the self.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga is a physical and meditative practice. It is a massive umbrella that groups various schools and practices to seek the unification of mind and body, create balance, and remove mental obstacles. The end goal of Hatha Yoga is to unite body, mind, and spirit through physical exercises. It was introduced to the West by Swami Vivekananda in 1893.

Even though it is referred to as physical practice, Hatha Yoga mainly includes meditation and concentration. The practice helps you discover different practices, beliefs, and religions as they can be practiced individually and in groups.
Hatha Yoga dictates learning the universal principles of a yogic lifestyle like accepting that every person has the potential for self-realization, the practice of nonviolence, to follow the Eightfold path that includes the right vision and action. This leads to knowing oneself and reaching the divine. Yoga also teaches you how to have self-control and mental discipline.

Asanas, or physical poses, are practiced in Hatha Yoga to focus and concentrate the mind. One of the most common poses is saluting the sun as a way to greet the day. It is symbolic, as light is seen as a way towards enlightenment. It involves putting your legs together and stretching your arms towards the sun.

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga is the yoga of selfless action while training the body, mind, and spirit. It is a form of prayer. Doing Karma Yoga means doing good without expectation of results or personal benefit to shed selfish attachments. It is a path of selfless service. This is completing an action for the well-being of others or the benefit of the world. The actions in Karma Yoga are carried out in a spirit of love and devotion. In this path, one asks that the results of your actionsthat return to you and others.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your interests but each of you to the interests of others.”

Jnana Yoga

Jnana yoga is the path of knowledge. This type of yoga involves the study of our psyche, emotions and mind with the goal of gaining self-knowledge and freedom. It's believed that we are not our physical self (that body) but rather we are the consciousness within and without the physical body. By gaining knowledge and understanding of ourselves, we can then free ourselves from our attachments to the physical world and let go of our ego to become enlightened.

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti Yoga, which is also called devotion, is a practice of yoga in which one focuses on the deities, inspired love, and deep attachment to a personal God. The purpose of Bhakti Yoga is to attain the presence of God. Bhakti Yoga is the process of attaining the highest spiritual goal of loving God. It is practiced through songs, chants, stories, dance, embodied prayer, devotion, discipline, and meditation.

Bhakti Yoga is a practice of Lila, which means play. The practitioner of Bhakti Yoga is called the bhakta. The divine lovers and the divine beloved are two sides of one coin. The bhakta seeks only the divine beloved and not god because God may be everywhere, but the divine beloved is in one place. This is why love is not the god that is the beginning, middle, and end of bhakti-yoga.

Bhakti Yoga is the Yoga of action. All actions performed with whole heart and devotion are Bhakti Yoga. In full devotion, the Bhakta is devoted and wholly absorbed in the divine beloved. The Bhakta considers the divine beloved as the best friend, and all divine lovers are God. The Bhakta understands that God does all actions. Bhakti Yoga is the path of feeling devotion for the deity.

The Royal Path Of Yoga or Raja Yoga

Yoga is the general term for any discipline that leads to control of the mind. The original Sanskrit word "yuj" means union. Yogas are the paths to that union. The eight limbs of Raja Yoga are:

  • Yama
  • Niyama
  • Asana
  • Pranayama
  • Pratyahara
  • Dharana
  • Dhyana
  • Samadhi

Why is Yoga Important?

Yoga is not a religion; it is a way of living that aims towards a healthy mind in a healthy body.

  • Yogic exercises recharge the body with cosmic energy and facilitate:
  • Attainment of perfect equilibrium and harmony
  • Promotes self-healing
  • Removes negative blocks from the mind and toxins from the body
  • Enhances personal power
  • Increases self-awareness
  • Helps in attention, focus, and concentration, especially important for children
  • Reduces stress and tension in the physical body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system


Yoga is as diverse as the earthworm that crawls across your yard. It’s a multifaceted spiritual practice that comes from a vision by many wise men from history. The origin of yoga is the combination of many yogis, saints, monks, religions, traditions, and eras. Yoga is a way of life. Yoga is everything, and everything is yoga.
Yoga is the origin of life, creation, matter, dimensions, and time. Everything began with yoga. Yogic history is the history of time itself.